Though bemoaning slanted coverage is a constant refrain from conservatives, liberals ought to recognize how media bias corrodes our discourse. As John Stuart Mill once said: “He who knows only his side of the case knows little of that.” While covering Gov. Cuomo over the last year, the mainstream media behaved less like Cicero and more like Cuomosexual groupies.
For those unfamiliar with the term “Cuomosexual,” its genesis is the root of our problem. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Trump forces (in their eternal wail of #NotMyPresident) desired a foil to Trump and his daily coronavirus briefings. Though many blue-state governors would serve this role throughout the pandemic, Cuomo was by far the most prominent.
The value of Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 briefings as a counterweight to Trump’s chaotic and inconsistent press conferences is certainly debatable. In a crisis, people need leaders they can admire to give them hope. Unfortunately, Cuomo’s role as an anti-Trump symbol led the media to abandon its adversarial role and adopt a cheerleading role.
Having been elevated to the same celebrity status as Mueller and Avenatti before him, complete with the branded merchandise, sycophantic media coverage, and a laughable Emmy award, Cuomo was as much a fixture on late-night TV as he was in the political arena. During one of these talk shows, the term Cuomosexual broke out into the popular culture as a way to describe the quasi-sexual affinity Democrats had with their new icon.
As is often the case with anti-Trump media darlings, Cuomo’s glittering image was more due to mythmaking than responsible reporting. Any objective analysis would deem Cuomo’s COVID-19 response one of the worst in the country, with an exceedingly high deaths-per-million ratio despite some of the strictest lockdown measures.
While major media outlets were eager to criticize how Republicans such as Ron DeSantis and Trump responded to COVID-19, they were largely silent on the unravelling scandal of Cuomo suppressing his nursing home death toll. Conservative outlets picked up on the story as early as May, though Cuomo’s reckoning in the mainstream press would largely wait until after the inauguration of Joe Biden.
As if this media failure wasn’t bad enough, the branding of Cuomosexuality itself proved to be an implicit falsification. Rather than the sex icon that the most fawning press coverage would have you believe, Cuomo appears to be a serial sexual abuser. The recently raised allegations against him range from inappropriate workplace conversation to criminal sexual assault, with at least one of these interactions captured in a disturbing photograph.
Why did these allegations only surface now? This seems to be a pattern of behavior dating back years, even decades, given Cuomo’s long career.
In short, #MeToo style reckonings for Democratic politicians are largely dependent on their political expediency. With the end of Trump’s term and his ban from Twitter, Cuomo’s role as an anti-Trump symbol became irrelevant. Our establishment media then declared open season on his past foibles, and the COVID-19 cover-up and sexual scandals quickly became major news stories.
This hypocrisy is as old as the modern feminist movement itself, with the character assassination of Clarence Thomas and the rationalization of Bill Clinton’s behavior coming within a decade of each other, often with the same Democratic figures adopting opposite stances on the two cases.
By no means did Republicans avoid hypocrisy in this time, but Republicans also did not proclaim themselves the champions of feminist issues in the political arena, nor did they have the benefit of a media who was willing to join in their charade.
A modern-day example of this double standard by the supposedly pro-#MeToo press is the coverage of Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations against Biden. Reade got a TV appearance on 60 Minutes Australia but has yet to get one on a mainstream network in America. When contrasted with the breathless reporting of (often insane) allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, bias is the only plausible explanatory factor.
Needless to say, allegations of sexual harassment against prominent politicians ought to be above the partisan fray. Media hypocrisy on #MeToo charges undercuts the legitimacy of all accusers and of the movement as a whole.
The unfortunate reality, to quote the feminist Caitlin Flanagan, is that “the sexual safety of women is always less important than something… the sexual safety of women who work in the offices of men like this is less important than getting men like this elected.”
Just as sexual violence is “either first or it’s last” in one’s personal rankings of political priorities, the slogan Believe All Women either means believe all women or it means nothing. Unless there are fundamental changes in our media environment, #MeToo will continue to take a back seat to the obsequious praise of Democratic politicians.
Featured image: Caricature of Cuomo. Unmodified image by DonkeyHotey used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/2P4x11g)
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